Ben Bishop finally has his chance to prove he can withstand the rigors of life as a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.
The 26-year-old, who has a 2.67 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 45 games spanning three seasons with three teams, will have every opportunity to do so when the Tampa Bay Lightning open training camp.
"It's exciting, it's something you work your whole life for to get the chance," Bishop told The Tampa Tribune. "With Craig [Anderson] getting hurt, I had the opportunity to play a lot of games [for the Ottawa Senators], and I tried to make the most of it."
Bishop went 8-5-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage for the Senators, keeping his team's postseason hopes afloat while Anderson recuperated from a right-ankle injury. Not long after Anderson returned to claim the starting job, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman pounced near the NHL Trade Deadline.
With Anders Lindback limited because of a high ankle sprain, and Mathieu Garon underachieving, Yzerman traded rookie forward Cory Conacher and a fourth-round draft pick to the Senators for Bishop, then gave him a two-year contract after six appearances with Tampa Bay. In doing so, Yzerman showed he believes he has secured the most important position on the ice for the near future. That's something the GM felt was a priority because his team was one of four to have four goalies suit up last season.
"We really believed he would solidify our goaltending," Yzerman said of Bishop. "The idea was to get him signed, which was always our intention, so now we look to move into [2013-14] with both Ben and Anders. They are both relatively young, and they each have tremendous upside."
In Bishop's Lightning debut April 4, he made 45 saves in a 5-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes and finished 3-4-1 with a 2.99 GAA and .917 save percentage in nine games following the trade. Bishop won a career-high 11 games in 2012-13 with a 2.67 GAA, .920 save percentage and two shutouts.
Bishop, who spent three seasons at the University of Maine, was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the third round (No. 85) of the 2005 NHL Draft and has yet to get the chance to be a No. 1 goaltender.
With St. Louis, he backed up Chris Mason and Manny Legace in 2008-09 and Jaroslav Halak and Ty Conklin in 2010-11. Bishop then served as Anderson's backup after the Senators acquired him in exchange for a 2013 second-round pick on Feb. 26, 2012.
Though Yzerman gave Bishop an extension not long after acquiring him from Ottawa, the 6-foot-7 goaltender will have to earn the starting job.
Yzerman brought in Bishop nine months after acquiring Lindback from the Nashville Predators and has publicly stated his preference for Bishop and Lindback to feed off the other and split duties to help alleviate some of the pressure associated with an 82-game season.
"Over the course of an entire season, it will give both of them an opportunity to play," Yzerman told Tampa Bay's website. "Having two guys with great potential, they'll now both be able to develop into the goaltenders we think they can become."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mikemorrealeNHL
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